Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

COLUMN: Bouncing back from a brain injury isn’t easy

‘We didn’t know how bad it was until I tried to return to work’

On Nov. 6, 2015, I suffered a traumatic brain injury during a car crash on the Lickman overpass.

I was pretty banged up.

But we didn’t know how bad it was until I tried to return to work, where I weave words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories to be read (and criticized) by the public.

After a few short weeks it was obvious I couldn’t do that yet, and I was sent home with a whole new diagnosis that explained why sometimes I couldn’t speak or think, why my head still hurt so much, and why I felt so … dumb.

I had an acquired brain injury from the intense force of air bags – post concussion syndrome.

And I still do.

A few months later, upon release from the intensive, daily WorkSafe therapy program, I was scoring in the highest percentile for brain function. And not just the highest percentile for people with brain injuries, but for the general population.

But I still didn’t feel myself. I still forgot words. I still was angry. I still had times I couldn’t speak.

I still felt … dumb.

Their psychiatrist admitted that yes, I was probably used to being smarter, wittier, faster. As a successful and highly-motivated newspaper reporter, I am what she considers an information synthesizer. That means I can easily write an email while listening to the scanner and the chatter in the newsroom, while keeping an eye on the street and screening incoming messages on all social media channels, and picking up the phone.

And most days, I still can. I’ve healed well.

Most days I am the old Jessica, and I can have these days for weeks on end and really get a handle on things at work, at home, with friends, with family.

But there are days where I can’t remember words like “coffee table,” and others where I’ll totally forget how to pronounce a word.

Some days I’m in pain, and other days I feel really slow. Some days it angers me. Other days I laugh.

This is life with a head injury. It’s nothing at all compared to what others deal with and I know this. So I’m thankful that I am fully functioning, enough to get my own groceries, do my own chores, drive, work, study, read, and learn new things.

But there are days when I’m that woman back in therapy, working quietly at home on brain exercises because I can feel myself falling back in progress. There are days when I have to wear sunglasses around town, to lessen the brain stimulation.

I use a dictionary more. I lean on my colleagues more. I cannot for the life of me remember how to spell “receive,” but my spell checker rarely lets me down.

But none of this has made me less of a reporter.

Being a reporter is about knowing what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s about holding people in power accountable for their actions and words. It’s about reflecting what’s going on in the community, and creating a public record. It’s about shining a light on what’s going on in a community, both good and bad.

It’s about ethics.

It’s about truth, and seeking it out, and reporting it.

It’s about using the right words to relay information.

It’s considering the source, and even facing personal biases.

But more than anything, I think, it’s about sharing the human experience. There are countless people who are hurt this week by the use of a derogatory slang, the repugnant R-word. I could be one of them but I’m used to criticism; it comes with the job and I have decades of armour.

And my job is to wield that mightier sword and continue writing.

Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Column

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Chilliwack driver’s vehicle was impounded for seven days after an excessive speeding violation. (RCMP photo)
RCMP catch Chilliwack driver doing 60 km/h over posted speed limit

The motorist was hit with a big ticket and a seven day vehicle impoundment

Glenwood Seniors Community is the second long term care home in Agassiz to have a COVID-19 outbreak. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Glenwood Seniors Community in Agassiz

The long term care home is the second of Agassiz’s three facilities to have an outbreak

UFV assistant kinesiology professor Dr. Iris Lesser exercises along Chilliwack's Vedder Rotary Trail with her daughter Kaia. (UFV photo)
UFV study finds women with reduced physical activity had more mental health struggles during COVID pandemic

The study suggested women suffered more than men as gyms, parks and playgrounds shut down

Sardis Falcons alumni Rick Klassen led the B.C. Lions to a Grey Cup championship in 1985.
Sardis secondary football field to be named after Rick Klassen

Klassen, a Sardis grad, led the B.C. Lions to a Grey Cup championship in 1985

Eva Pucci Couture in this file shot from May 29, 2019, when she came to Chilliwack asking for the public’s help in locating her missing son, Kristofer Shawn Couture. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Missing man’s mom still hopeful, 2 years after his car was found abandoned at Chilliwack trail

‘I wish someone would come forward with insight into your whereabouts,’ pleads mom of missing man

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read